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Life is a journey. Movies have been produced and books have been written about personal journeys. The best stories often are when at the end of the journey the main character(s) “find their place”.

This is one of those stories.

Nikki Hartley, the healthy living director at the C.M. Gatton Beaumont YMCA, moved to Lexington with her soon-to-be husband in 2014 after graduating from Shawnee State University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science. The couple didn’t know a soul in town, and she didn’t have job – but they were on an adventure.

“Debbi Dean at the High Street YMCA hired me part time, about 10 hours a week, to help out on the wellness floor,” said Nikki. “A few days later, I began working at the membership desk, Kids Corner, and then with school aged child care. That summer, I also supported camp. I was learning new things about myself, and found out that I really enjoyed all these different services of the Y.

“Pretty quickly thereafter, I said to my soon-to-be husband, ‘I’m no longer searching for another job, I love it at the Y and I’m pretty sure I’ll be here awhile’.”

One journey for Nikki ended, and another started as she began to find out about the YMCA’s community impact. 

“It felt as if I was called to be at High Street. I was able to support mothers and infants, school-aged children, people just beginning their wellness journeys and others who have lived long, prosperous lives and are now working hard every day to remain mobile and healthy,” she said.

Nikki’s path again shifted when she became one of our association’s advocates for health and wellness. 

“About three-and-a-half years ago, I was offered the opportunity to help lead health and wellness at the ‘Beaumont Y’. I love everything about this role – every day I work alongside some of the finest healthy living professionals in this business. I feel incredibly lucky to have found an organization that I love so early in my career to grow within.”

“I am honored to help build support groups of cancer survivors in our Livestrong at the YMCA program and watch them regain their strength and confidence, and help others with debilitating diseases improve their balance, cardiovascular levels and mobility improve and to continue leading meaningful lives,” said Nikki. “I get to watch children as young as six-years-old complete their first triathlons! 

“All of these people, young and old alike, have no idea how much they have changed my life,” Nikki added. “I am still as amazed today as I was when I first started how the YMCA has impacted my life. I learn something new almost every single day, whether it’s a new exercise or a valuable life lesson. Importantly, I’ve learned to not take anything for granted. I’m so grateful.”

When we asked Nikki what words came to mind when she thinks of the YMCA, it is clear the impact the organization has had on her since she moved to Lexington. 

“Family – that boyfriend I mentioned previously is now my husband – we knew absolutely nobody here. So, my Y coworkers and even some members have become close friends that are practically family.”

“Community is also strong in my mind. I don’t know of any other place that has more communities within its walls than the YMCA, and it seems like new ones form almost weekly. It’s so fun to give a tour to a nervous prospective member and see them a couple of weeks later with their trainer, in a group exercise class, playing pickleball or drinking coffee with new friends in the lobby,” Nikki added.

Nikki’s on a new personal journey, having recently become a first time mother. “I cannot wait to coach my first Y t-ball team,” she shared with us.

Though being a new mother leaves little personal time, Nikki enjoys playing recreational softball when she can. “Unfortunately, there hasn’t been time to dust off my old cleats since becoming a mom,” she shared. She also enjoys the outdoors and being active; she’s an avid runner, and likes playing tennis or hiking. 

When we asked Nikki any last words for this Y story, she was profoundly sincere. 
“As I’m answering these questions, our Y has been open for almost two days following its nearly 80 day closure, and I have never felt more importance for the Y in our community than I do right now,” she said. “Seeing familiar, sweaty but smiling, faces is just what we all need at the moment.”

“I’m excited for our community to rebuild its strength, endurance, confidence and love for one another to get through this time united and stronger than ever,” Nikki added.

Nikki, thank you for your time, and may your journey continue to surprise and delight you professionally and personally.